Published by Threshold Books


An excerpt from

Signs of the Unseen
Discourses of Jalâluddîn Rumi

Translated by W.M. Thackston, Jr.


The Mysterion

Someone said that we have come to know each and every condition of mankind. Not an iota of man’s condition and nature or his hot and cold humors has escaped us; yet it has not been ascertained what part of him will abide forever.

If that could be known merely by words, then such effort and exertion would not be necessary and no one would have to go to such pain or toil. For example, someone comes to the seashore. Seeing nothing but turbulent water, crocodiles, and fish, he says: “Where are the pearls? Perhaps there are no pearls.” How is one to obtain a pearl merely by looking at the sea? Even if one measures out the sea cup by cup a hundred times over, the pearls will not be found. One must be a diver in order to discover the pearls; and not every diver will find them, only a fortunate, skillful one.

The sciences and crafts are like measuring the sea in cupfuls; the way to finding pearls is something else. Many a person is adorned with every accomplishment and possessed of wealth and beauty but has nothing of this intrinsic meaning in him; and many a person is a wreck on the outside, with no fairness of feature, elegance or eloquence, but within is found the intrinsic meaning that abides forever. It is that which ennobles and distinguishes humanity. It is because of the intrinsic meaning that human beings have precedence over all creatures. Leopards, crocodiles, lions, and all other animals have skills and particular qualities, but the intrinsic meaning that abides forever is not in them. If man will but find his way to the intrinsic meaning, he will attain his pre-eminence; otherwise, he will remain deprived of pre-eminence. All these arts and accomplishments are like jewels set on the back of a mirror. The face of the mirror is void of them, so it must be clear. Anyone who has an ugly face will desire the back of the mirror because the face tells all. Anyone who has a fair countenance will go to any length for the sake of the face of the mirror because it reflects that person’s own beauty.

A friend of Joseph of Egypt came to him from a journey. “What gift have you brought?” asked Joseph.

“What do you not have already? Is there anything you need?” asked the friend. “Nonetheless, because there is nothing more beautiful than you, I have brought you a mirror so that you can see your face reflected every moment.”

What does God not have? What does He need? One must take a polished heart to God so that He can see Himself in it. “God does not look at your forms or at your deeds, but He looks at your hearts.”

“The city of your dreams you found lacking nothing save noble men.” In a city where you find all the beauties, pleasures, delights and various adornments of nature, you won’t find an intelligent man. Would that it were the other way around! That city is the human being. If it has a hundred thousand accomplishments but not the intrinsic meaning, no matter that it have no external embellishments. The mysterion must be there for it to flourish. In whatever state man may be, his mysterion is concerned with God, and his external preoccupations in no way hinder that inner concern. In whatever state a pregnant woman may be — war or peace, eating or sleeping — the baby is growing, is being strengthened, and is receiving sensations in her womb without her being aware of it. Mankind likewise is “pregnant” with that mysterion. But man undertook {the faith}: verily he was unjust to himself, and foolish {33:72}, but God does not leave him in his injustice and foolishness. If out of man’s apparent burden come companionship, sympathy, and a thousand acquaintances, then consider what marvelous friendships and acquaintances will issue out of the mysterion to which man gives birth after death. The mysterionis necessary in order for man to flourish. It is like the root of a tree although it is hidden from view, its effects are apparent on the branches. Even if one or two branches break off, when the root is strong the tree will continue to grow. If, however, the root suffers damage neither branch nor leaf will survive.